Author's Chapter Notes:

A/N: There's a passing reference to the Ricky Gervais Show in here, but if you miss it, that's cool.


Official Disclaimer: Still totally not mine.

Andy Sachs and the Cleverly Worded Plot Device
by: Hayseed (

Chapter Seven: ...and the Mistake of a Lifetime

How did you tell someone you’d probably just gotten them killed?

It wasn’t a problem a lot of people faced, in all likelihood. At least, not if ‘getting someone’ killed was literal, anyway. There wasn’t a whole lot of point in apologizing to a corpse.

Although, knowing Miranda Priestly, she’d return as a ghost just to haunt Andy out of sheer spite.

And Miranda was scary enough alive.

But on the other hand... scary wasn’t really the right word for it. Not any more.

Intimidating? Hell, yes. Forever and ever, amen.

Scary? Not so much. At least, not since she’d been exposed to the new-and-different vulnerable side of Miranda. Knowing that having weird dreams freaked her out and that she could worry about dumb things like magic chairs wasn’t scary as much as it was... endearing.

Really, even worse than whatever Miranda’s reaction would be was the mental image of Miranda’s unmoving body splayed on the floor of some nameless government office, dead because Andy couldn’t keep her damn mouth shut.

Those thoughts didn’t matter, though. Not now.

Not when she stood on the doorstep of Miranda’s townhouse, hand poised to ring the bell and stomach twisting itself into the Gordian knot.

Abruptly, the door swung open under her hand. For a split second, Andy thought about shouting in surprise, but when she met Miranda’s cool gaze regarding her from across the doorway, she settled for some rapid blinking and hyperventilating instead.

“You have an update,” Miranda said.

So something like ‘hello’ would be too prosaic for the likes of Miranda Priestly, huh.

Andy didn’t reply. Replying would suggest that Miranda had asked her a question, and she clearly hadn’t.

“Perhaps you should come inside,” she continued.

Still no questions.

As she stepped into the foyer, Andy couldn’t help but remember all the times she’d snuck in like a weird Runway-version of Santa Claus, leaving dry cleaning and the Book instead of candy and toys.

At least Santa got milk and cookies. What did Andy get? Insults about her intelligence and sly digs at her weight.

Being fashion-Santa sucked.

Without so much as a backward glance, Miranda sauntered toward the den. Feeling vaguely like she’d stepped back in time, Andy trailed in her wake like an obedient little lackey. Her right hand twitched, and it took her a second to realize it was looking for a pen and paper.

Goddamn but she hated this bullshit!

Why couldn’t Miranda treat her like... well, not like this. Like someone who mattered. Like someone who wasn’t her employee.

“Andrea?” Miranda asked quietly.

Andy realized that while Miranda had been settling herself, she’d been standing dumbly in the doorway, staring at the floor and trapped in a mental rant. She blushed and sat in the nearest chair.

Which was, in retrospect, possibly the least comfortable chair she’d ever sat on in her entire life.

Counting the chair Nate ‘made’ for her their junior year of college that consisted of a handful of milk crates haphazardly nailed together. She and Lily called it the Iron Maiden and used it as a victim when they practiced hexes.

Why would Miranda even own such a monstrosity?

It must be designed by someone incredibly famous. Or once owned by someone incredibly famous. Or once sat upon by someone incredibly--

“You have information,” Miranda said, snapping Andy out of her brief reverie.

“Well, um...” she hesitated.

Miranda rolled her eyes, and she could almost hear the How delightful.

Act your age, damn it, a voice whispered in the back of her head. You want Miranda to see you as more than an employee, you have to give her a reason to, stupid.

She cleared her throat and started again. “I spoke with one of my wizarding contacts, and he let me know that there’s likely an investigation pending.”

“Investigation?” she echoed smoothly.

“Yeah, uh, the MBI -- Magical Bureau of Information -- has to conduct an inquiry to make sure there’s no risk of... exposure.”


She really, really wished Miranda would stop that. It made her feel about six years old. “Well, what if someone found out about us?”

That didn’t sound right.

“Um, wizards, I mean,” she clarified hastily. “What if y -- a Muggle found out and couldn’t be trusted?”

“Yes, Andrea,” Miranda said, quirking an eyebrow. “What if that happened?”

It would be totally awesome if the floor opened up and swallowed her right about now.

Maybe someone knew a spell for that. Luke, maybe. He was used to humiliation, right?

“A... uh, a threat to national wizarding security would have to be taken care of,” she admitted grudgingly.

“How so?” Miranda snapped.

Andy gulped. “One of two ways,” she muttered.

“Allow me to guess,” she interrupted dryly. “They will give me the option of involuntarily spending the remainder of my life in their... protection, or they will use some sort of magical curse to render me unable to share any secrets I possess.”

“Well, I suppose you could kind of think of it that way,” Andy said, trying to sound thoughtful instead of despondent.

“Enlighten me, Andrea.”

“My contact told me that the two options were incarceration--“

Miranda nodded.

“Or... or...”

A slight widening of the eyes. Someone who hadn’t spent almost a year trying to gauge Miranda’s moods might have missed it.

Andy hung her head in misery. “Termination,” she whispered.

There was a long pause.

A really long pause.

Entire civilizations rose and fell during the time it took them to sufficiently recover themselves to speak.

Surprisingly, Andy tried her voice out first. “Miranda,” she said softly, “I am so incredibly--“

Don’t,” Miranda said in a harsh voice.

It was the closest thing to a shout that Andy had ever heard come out of her mouth. She didn’t really know what to do; her hands fidgeted in her lap of their own accord, and she stared down at the tips of her shoes.

“You,” Miranda continued venomously.

Andy flinched.

“You are the most bothersome girl I have ever met,” she spat.

Well, that was a cue, if ever she’d heard one. Without a word -- speaking would only turn the tears brimming in her eyes into full-blown sobs -- Andy stepped into the open center of the room and Disapparated.

“This is such a freaking mess, Bucks,” Andy sniffled, swiping at her wet cheeks with a tissue and giving her nose a hard blow for good measure. “I don’t know what to do.”

Bucky did not stop purring, and Andy took that to mean that she didn’t either.

“Miranda hates me. I mean, she really, really hates me. And who can blame her? I may have gotten her killed because I can’t keep my goddamn magic under control.”

Gently, without any malice, Bucky bit the side of Andy’s hand. Her teeth prickled against Andy’s skin, reminding her that the situation was far more complicated than that.

Of course it was. Complicated was, like, Andy’s middle name. Even stupidly simple stuff like going to the bathroom seemed hellishly more complicated these days. Everything that could go wrong generally did.

And she was sick of it.

“All I wanted to do was write for a newspaper,” she groaned, burying her face in the side of the sofa. “What the hell is wrong with me?”

Nothing. Bucky began kneading her claws on the fabric of Andy’s jeans. Except maybe a tendency toward melodrama.

She sighed. “I shouldn’t care about any of this, should I? What problem is it of mine that Miranda happens to be one of five people in the entire world that has an intolerance toward Memory Charms? Maybe she really should be locked up or something.”

You don’t mean that.

“No, I don’t really mean it,” she agreed glumly, lifting her head and giving Bucky a watery smile. “But why the fuck not? If Emily was the one knocking on my door in fancy nightwear because of her weirdass dreams, I wouldn’t hesitate to turn her in.”

Whiskers trembling in a feline grin, Bucky let her tail twitch rhythmically against Andy’s knee. You don’t know?

Andy rolled her eyes. “No, I don’t know.”

An ear flicked dismissively. Humans. All the subtlety of a hammer.

“You know...” Andy drawled irritably. “Dry food really is cheaper than anything else. I should really start thinking about my budget. Because, honestly, what’s more important: rent or my stupid, smartass cat?”

Bucky’s eyes narrowed, and Andy figured she was in for a fresh set of scratches, but her cell started chirping abruptly, startling Bucky into jumping off her lap and scurrying under the couch.

“Chicken,” she told Bucky with an affectionate chuckle, picking her phone up and checking the display.

Huh. Not a number she recognized.

“Hello?” she asked cautiously.


“Hello? Is anyone there?”

She started counting. If she got to five and no one said anything, she was hanging up.

One. Two. Three. Four. Fi--


Okay, so she could have been knocked over by a fucking feather.

“Miranda?” she asked after a stunned pause. Why are you calling me? she wanted to say but didn’t. From your home? And why didn’t I know you had a home phone?

“I was angry earlier this evening.”

No shit. In the end, Andy didn’t reply; it was safer that way.

“When I am angry, I tend to say unreasonable things.”

It was a really, really good thing Miranda had called instead of coming over, because if she saw the incredulous look on Andy’s face right now, she’d probably get pissed all over again. “O-oh?” she managed to stammer.

“You are not bothersome.”

Something in the pit of her stomach went all tingly.

Miranda was apologizing to her. Or, trying to, anyway.

She decided to give her a break. “You have every right to be angry with me, Miranda.”

“It is not your fault, Andrea.”

Boy, she wished she’d had the presence of mind to record this call. She could listen to Miranda saying that one sentence over and over for hours.

Emily would never believe it had happened. Miranda giving a former employee the benefit of the doubt? Impossible.

“I would like for you to come to dinner tomorrow night,” Miranda said briskly. “As amends for my poor behavior. The girls will be out for the evening, so you would not be an inconvenience.”

“I--“ She wasn’t sure if she was going to say yes or no, because on the one hand, it meant being forced to spend at least two hours enduring Miranda.

But on the other hand, it meant getting to spend at least two hours with Miranda. She wasn’t quite sure how that had worked out to be a positive all of a sudden, but there it was.

It didn’t matter, though, because Miranda just plowed on. “I will expect you no later than seven-thirty, Andrea.”

“Oh-“ The phone clicked as Miranda hung up. “Kay.”

Andy stared at the little numbers blinking on her cell. “Bucky,” she said slowly, “I think I just got invited to socialize with Miranda Priestly.”

Bucky gave her a little mew and made her way back into Andy’s lap.

After idly scratching Bucky’s ears for a couple of minutes, a thought popped into her head. “Oh, fuck,” she said out loud. “What the hell do I wear?”

What Andy really should have worried about had nothing to do with clothes, and everything to do with... well, where to start?

The meal, maybe.

She knew Miranda had the metabolism of a hummingbird; she’d watched the woman tuck in to steak dinners that burly truckers called Spud would have backed away from. And that wasn’t all. A Starbucks a day does not do a damn thing to keep one’s weight under control, and if Miranda had a four-Starbucks-day, she was obviously trying to limit her caffeine intake.

So, of course, dinner in Miranda’s household would have sent Emily straight to the nearest toilet she could find.

Lasagna, oozing with ricotta and mozzarella. Salad, which could have been okay, but it was Caesar, which meant the dressing alone would have sent Emily into fat-induced seizures.

And the bread. The homemade Italian bread, fresh out of the oven, served with roasted garlic cloves that spread like butter.

If she’d been invited to dinner by anyone but Miranda “Pretty Girls Should Really Be a Size Two” Priestly, she would have loosened her belt to the next notch and dived in like she hadn’t eaten in a month.

But, no. Heaven on a plate had to be served to her at the house of the woman who called Andy fat so often that she didn’t even register it as an insult any more.

She picked sullenly at her food, hoping Miranda would abruptly be called away from the table long enough that Andy could actually get something to eat.

Even worse, there was a not-insignificant part of her that wanted Miranda to fall to the floor after she finished her next helping of lasagna, curled up in pain as she suffered the worst bout of indigestion she’d ever had.

Andy’s inner child was kind of on a roll tonight.

But if the food (or lack thereof, to be honest) was making her act like she was twelve years old and her dad had taken her wand away, the conversation was enough to send her back to her terrible-freaking-twos.

As in, there was no conversation.


For the last forty-five minutes, Andy had simply stared down at her (full) plate, listening to the clink of Miranda’s silverware against china.

It was surreal. Miranda had shown Andy in, offered her a glass of wine, and then proceeded to ignore her for the better part of an hour.

Isn’t she supposed to be amending her poor behavior? Andy thought pitifully to herself. The fragrant garlic swirled in her nose, and her stomach let loose a mortifying rumble.

Miranda swallowed a mouthful of salad. “Is dinner not to your liking, Andrea?”

Andy had never been asked a more loaded question in her entire life. “I... um, no! Of course not; it’s wonderful. I just...”

Head tilted down at just the right angle, Miranda gave her that skeptical look that always made her feel like gum on the bottom of Miranda’s Manolo.

Andy’s cheeks pinkened.

“Andrea,” Miranda sighed, all but rolling her eyes. “You are not fat. I would think you, better than anyone, understand the difference between the high standards established by the fashion community and those set by social mores.”

Blinking, she tried to sort out whether or not that was a compliment. In the end, she just picked up her fork and took a big, heavenly bite of lasagna. “Yes, Miranda,” she murmured, more out of habit than anything else.

“Besides,” she continued blandly, “it would not be unreasonable to assume that... your ilk have methods to maintain whatever standards they choose.”

Ilk? When did they step two hundred years back in time? Chasing her (wonderful, glorious, orgasmic) lasagna with a mouthful of wine, Andy chose to ignore the wording and answer the sentiment. “Well, um, I guess we do,” she agreed. “It’s called dieting and exercise.”

Miranda arched an eyebrow.

“Wizards aren’t all that different,” Andy told her with a faint smile. “Muggles seem to think that magic is sort of a cure-all, but in my experience, it causes a lot more problems than it fixes.”

“True,” she replied musingly. “I suppose that magic has not done me any favors either.”

If she had been sitting across the table from Lily, Luke, even Nate, that would have been her cue to crack a joke. But she wasn’t. After a long, expectant pause, she shoved almost an entire slice of bread in her mouth to avoid having to respond.

“Is this some magical etiquette of which I am unaware?” Miranda asked her, previously arched eyebrow rising even further. “No conversation while eating?”

For a horrible second, she choked. Inhaling in shock while halfway through chewing a two-inch thick piece of bread was not a good idea. Fortunately, she had the presence of mind to pull her napkin up to her nose as she hacked, so Miranda wouldn’t have to watch the worst of it.

And the only thing running through her head while she coughed was something along the lines of, was Miranda waiting for me to talk? Fuck, I wish I knew what I was doing!

“All right now?” Miranda asked calmly as Andy’s coughing morphed into gentle wheezing breaths.

Her hand went toward her wine glass, but she forced herself to pull it back. Probably not the best idea to pour alcoholic stuff down a throat that was already screaming in protest. “Yeah,” she said, taking a sip of water instead. “I just... never mind.”

“I think perhaps we’re finished eating,” Miranda said, letting it pass without comment. It was a good thing Andy didn’t have anything in her mouth; she would have choked again. “Coffee in the den?”

Boy, when Miranda invited someone to dinner, she didn’t do anything by halves, did she?

A silver service was already laid out on the coffee table. If Miranda had a housekeeper, Andy hadn’t seen her at any point, but then again, the coffee Miranda poured into her cup was steaming hot, so someone must have served it.

Maybe Miranda had house elves...

With a short laugh, Andy accepted a hot cup and dropped in a single lump of sugar.

“Yes?” Miranda asked, settling beside her on the sofa and taking a sip of the absolutely scalding hot coffee, somehow managing not to take the skin off her tongue.

Not nearly as brave, Andy settled for what she knew looked like idly running a finger around the rim but was really a gentle stirring spell. “Oh, nothing,” she said. “Just a private joke, I guess.”

Miranda was staring at her finger. “Andrea, are you...?”

Blushing slightly, Andy pulled the finger away, watching the little coffee whirlpool in her cup slow to a stop. “Sorry.”

“No...” she said, sounding very nearly dazed. “It’s... it is not my place to censor you, Andrea.”

Not any more. “I know it’s unsettling, though,” she replied. “I don’t want to...”

As she trailed off, they just stared at each other. Miranda’s eyes glittered in the dim light.

“This is ridiculous,” Miranda finally said without malice. “It should not be so difficult to have a simple discussion.”

With a wry grin, Andy decided it was now or never and took a hesitant drink from her cup. The tip of her tongue protested against the heat. “I’m not sure it’s all that simple.”

Miranda looked like she wanted to protest, but in the end, she just sighed. “You are possibly correct. No one has contacted me.”

She tilted her head, trying to figure out what the hell Miranda was talking about but desperately not wanting to ask. Another sip of coffee.

After a beat, Miranda all but huffed with impatience. “The wizard police you told me about,” she explained slowly. “I have not been waylaid by anyone wearing a strange bathrobe. Not outside of a photo shoot.”

Andy let out a surprised bray of laughter.

The eyebrow went up.

Her mouth snapped shut. Oh, no. What if it wasn’t a joke?

A corner of Miranda’s mouth curled. “Honestly, Andrea,” she drawled.

This was new. And different. And impossible.

Since when did Miranda Priestly tell jokes?

Better yet, since when did Miranda Priestly tell jokes within Andy’s range of hearing?

If she’d learned anything from her tenure at Runway, it was that there was a time and a place for everything. Except asking questions.

“I thought Jocelyn wasn’t allowed in the Closet without direct supervision any more,” she ventured cautiously.

“Nigel cannot be expected to keep rein on the girl 24-7,” Miranda retorted wryly.

“So, outside of bizarre fashion experiments that will hopefully never see the light of day...”

“Nothing out of the ordinary has occurred,” she agreed with a short nod. “Except, of course, self-stirring coffee, but I find myself becoming increasingly inured to the impossible in that respect.”

On impulse, Andy stretched her fingers toward her coffee cup again and gave them a neat little twirl. The coffee obediently leapt into the air and swirled into a complex pattern.

Miranda’s eyes widened, but she remained silent.

“I got lucky with that one,” she admitted, continuing to spin the liquid through the air. “About half of the time, it just splashes everywhere. Kind of depends on my concentration.”


She blinked, and the coffee slid back into the cup as neatly as if it had been poured. “Maybe I shouldn’t have told you that. I’m capable of concentrating more than half the time.”

Instead of the usual smirk, Miranda offered her a genuine smile. It was prettier than Andy would have expected -- not threatening in the slightest. “I don’t doubt it, Andrea.”

“It’s something wizarding kids have to learn when they’re very young. American ones, anyway.”

Miranda didn’t say anything, which Andy took as her signal to elaborate.

“In other countries, wizards live more separately, but here in America, wizards and Muggles mix all the time without anyone knowing the difference. So when a kid starts showing magic, it’s really important that they learn concentration and control early on. Muggle kids get swimming lessons, wizarding kids get ‘don’t accidentally set your friends on fire’ lessons,” she said wryly.

With an elegant snort -- of course it was elegant; Miranda probably even bled elegantly -- she gave her head a gentle shake. “It is rather disturbing to hear you describe such... such a surreal situation as casually as you do.”

Andy thought about it before she answered. “I don’t know any other way,” she finally said. “I know why all the secrecy is necessary, but at the same time, there’s not a whole lot of point in talking about my life like a spy thriller.”

“Why is the secrecy necessary?” Miranda asked, kind of abruptly. Andy had been mentally preparing for more discussion about American-like-apple-pie-wizardry, and Miranda’s question kind of threw her off guard.

But really, it was more surprising it had taken Miranda this long to ask in the first place.

“Surely tolerance and acceptance are watchwords of the 21st century,” Miranda went on, apparently taking Andy’s surprised silence as confusion. “I would think that your--“ She caught herself, and Andy was absolutely stunned to see a faint blush graze her cheekbones. “That wizarding society would be progressing along much the same track as the rest of the world.”

With the tiniest of smirks (she couldn’t help it; she made Miranda Priestly blush), Andy just shrugged. “It’s a nice theory, but there’s about five thousand years of history working against it.”

Miranda quirked an eyebrow, and it was Andy’s turn to blush. Not as elegantly as Miranda, of course. Where Miranda’s cheeks turned a pretty pink, reminiscent of a little girl playing with her mother’s makeup, Andy’s whole face went as red as a tomato.

“Okay, so that could have come out better,” she admitted. “But one of the things they teach in history classes is that times may change, but human nature pretty much stays the same. At least when we’re dealing with stuff outside the realm of our understanding.”

Something in Miranda’s posture became less defensive, and Andy took that to mean she was at least listening to her.

“What do you know about Egypt?”

Finishing off her coffee, Miranda took a moment to refill her cup before replying. “Pyramids, sand, lots of gold. Shall I continue?”

“The pharaohs were wizards,” she said, feeling breathless at telling all of this to a Muggle and somehow expecting Luke to come exploding into the room to erase her memory, take her magic, and kick her in the shin for good measure. “Ancient Egypt’s entire religious network is based on what pretty much comes down to wizard-worship.”

“And then?” Miranda turned so that she was almost reclining on the sofa arm, her knee brushing against Andy’s thigh.

Boy, she thought she was blushing before. She tried to concentrate on what she was saying, and not on the tingling sensation the brief contact had caused. “Well, inbreeding isn’t any better for magic than it is for other stuff. Basically, the Egyptian civilization fell apart because the pharaohs and their generals lost their mojo, I guess you could say. Which wouldn’t have happened if wizards had just stayed out of it in the first place.”

“I fail to see how this explains the need for a conspiracy of silence in modern times,” she said archly.

“Worshipping it is just one response to the unknown,” Andy pointed out. “The other response is generally worse. At least for the outsiders, anyway. I’m sure you know what people did to witches for, oh, I guess about a thousand years or so.”

Miranda’s eyes widened ever-so-slightly.

“We generally figured out ways around burning,” she said quietly, head bowed, “and that’s how we survived. But technology has kind of caught up to and surpassed us. Superman may be able to stop speeding bullets, but wizards can’t. Well, not any differently than Muggles can. Which usually ends badly.” Andy tried to smile but mostly failed.

“I--“ Miranda started, but she closed her mouth almost as soon as she’d opened it.

“It’s not anyone’s fault,” she said. “Wizards suck at that kind of stuff as much as Muggles do. I mean, the Harry Potter books aren’t really fiction. Just like there are big parts of the Muggle population that couldn’t handle living with wizards, there are parts of the wizarding world that can’t deal with Muggles. Maybe the reason we keep everything so secret is because we’re busy enough with lunatics like... oh, what did the book call him? Voldemort?”

Slowly blinking, Miranda’s head dipped into a nod. “That makes a surprising deal of sense,” she said thoughtfully. “Although I must say that I did not expect an anthropology lesson, Andrea. You continue to... impress me.”

Something in her belly hummed with pleasure at the compliment. “I’ve been thinking about all that stuff lately,” she admitted. “Us versus them, you know?”

Maybe if Andy hadn’t possibly gotten Miranda a death sentence, maybe if they didn’t have Runway and everything it stood for standing between them like a stone wall; hell, maybe if they had shared more than one companionable meal together before...

Maybe then Andy could have continued. She might have told Miranda all about the insecurities she felt her entire life about having to hide so much of herself from the world, the lingering suspicion that wizards kept themselves isolated because the Muggles were right about everything, even her devastating failure as a halfer.

Instead, she shrugged and offered Miranda a small smile. “When I tried to tell a guy about being a witch a few weeks ago, he called me a freak. It’s kind of stuck with me.”

There was something in Miranda’s eyes Andy couldn’t quite put her finger on, but whatever it was, it made them shine a brilliant blue. “You know that’s not true, don’t you, Andrea?”

She shook her head self-deprecatingly. “Rationally, yes.”

“I will only say this once,” she told Andy, lips twitching downward in a slight frown. “If I have learned anything, it is that petty, small-minded people often refuse to recognize true worth... true beauty, even when it is right in front of them.”

Do not gape at Miranda Priestly like a fish. Do not gape at Miranda Priestly like a fish, even though she might have just called you beautiful.

Her eyes were tingling suspiciously.

Do not cry, you stupid bitch! If you ruin this moment by turning into a red-faced, sobbing snot-rag, you will never forgive yourself.

She could feel the tears pooling. This was so damn stupid!

But then, something amazing happened. No, something elegant happened.

A single tear broke free and slid down Andy’s right cheek. Andy Sachs, who most closely resembled a baboon’s ass when she cried, was currently tearing up as gracefully as a heroine from a Jane Austen novel.

Cecil-B-fucking-DeMille couldn’t have created a more cinematic crying scene.

Which was totally why she felt smooth, cool fingertips on her face.

Miranda couldn’t help touching her cheek, right? The moment was just too perfect. DeMille was calling for her close-up.

Yeah, that had to be it.

Because Miranda Priestly didn’t comfort former-employees-slash-girls-who-might-have-gotten-her-killed. That would be against the natural order.

She almost leaned into those fingertips but caught herself at the last second.

They stared at each other for a little while. Miranda’s hand was frozen mid-air, and Andy could feel the cold dampness around her rounded eyes.

What the hell did this possibly look like?

Miranda blinked, and the spell was broken. Her hand dropped back to her side, and Andy gave her cheeks a nervous swipe.

“Um, it’s getting pretty late, isn’t it?” Andy asked in a soft voice.

In reply, Miranda just nodded.

“Well, maybe I ought to go, then,” she said awkwardly, pushing herself off the sofa and wrapping her arms around her chest in what might have been a defensive posture. “Early morning and stuff.”

“Yes,” Miranda said hoarsely.

She lingered in the doorway, wondering what on Earth she should say.

“Thanks, I guess,” she finally settled on. “For supper and coffee and everything.”

“Yes,” Miranda repeated, sounding absolutely dazed. “You are very welcome, Andrea.”

As she made her way out of the house and down the steps, it felt like her heart was stuck somewhere in her throat, and she really, really didn’t want to think about why.

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